Doctor hikes to raise awareness about heart health

WATCH ABOVE: Dr. Heather Ross preaches the need for physical activity in order to maintain a healthy heart and she’s taking her own advice.

TORONTO- As head of the Cardiac Transplant Program at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre,  Dr. Heather Ross preaches the need for physical activity in order to maintain a healthy heart – and she’s taking her own advice.

“It’s important. Our motto is that ‘my life is worth one hour a day,’ said Dr. Ross. “And if you take that to heart, pardon the pun, you will think about the right choices to make in food, think about getting off the subway earlier and walking, adding some form of exercise or physical activity into your day.”

Ross injected interval training into her life in preparation for an epic journey in Bhutan.

“I have a personal trainer who’s helped me to work on some of the areas that are maybe deficits for  me in terms of my fitness. It’s been exciting, I’m 52 and it’s been quite exciting to try to personally for me to put my body through this challenge and to see if I can actually meet the bar. I had my cardiopulmonary fitness test and it went pretty well so I’m actually quite happy,” said the doctor.

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Happy because the “Snowman Trek” requires a high level of fitness.

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“National Geographic rated the ‘Snowman Trek’ as the most difficult trek on the planet. So I think it will be a challenge. There’s a number of features about it that makes it a challenge. The first is that it’s a long trek, it’s about 250 miles (402 kilometers). The second is that almost all of the trek is above 10,000 feet, and the third is depending on what happens with the weather. We will have six or seven separate passes that we have to go up and over, so I think by most people’s standards that’ll be a challenge,” said Dr.Ross.

The Toronto-based cardiologist hikes to raise awareness about heart health, the rate of heart disease, and the need for organ transplants. It is also a means of raising much needed research funds: nearly $ 2 million over the years.

“The first ‘Test Your Limits’ trip happened in 2006 to Vinson in the Antarctic and then in 2008 to Nepal, 2010, to the North Pole, and 2013 to the South Pole,” says Dr. Ross, “One of the messages we want to get out to people is that anything is possible and we have a heart transplant recipient and a kidney transplant recipient and they’re going to come and both of them on their own have done previous trips, amazing trips.”

The doctors will also be doing research using the two transplant patients to see how their bodies do on the journey and the effects of high altitudes.

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“You’re kind of looking for something,” said Dave Smith, “something other than what they did before.”

Smith received a kidney from his brother in 1997 and since then, the Alberta man has been pushing himself physically and trying new things.

“My family had all stepped up and my brother was a perfect match,” said Smith, “It’s quite a gift that people give. It’s catching on. I hope it catches on even bigger in Alberta and right across Canada.”

The ‘Test Your Limits’ journey began on Sept. 14 when the crew left Canada. Outdoor Survival Canada provided them with gear but the rest is up to the hikers.

“The Kingdom of Bhutan is actually quite a small country and a small population. Once we leave the major hub of Thimphu, once we leave there, effectively we are getting into more and more remote territory, ” said Dr. Ross.

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